Sunday 24 February 2013

A better athlete (part 2): Injury Prevention

Often when people get injured in the gym, on the court, or on the field, it’s because they’re over doing a single activity. Whether it be running, squatting, cutting, or jumping, your body is easily worn down. Joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons throughout your body are under a tremendous amount of stress though repeated movement, and it’s important to give them the occasional break. By mixing up your routine you give the over-used parts of your body a chance to rest and the under-used a chance to strengthen and catch-up. By cross-training you can become a healthier, more complete athlete.

Prevention & Rehabilitation

Overuse injuries are the curse of an athlete's life. Nevertheless, injuries aren't inevitable. Most overuse injuries can be prevented or at least prevented from returning. Most of them can be blamed on three factors.

1. Inadequate recovery (see previous blog post)
2. Biomechanical irregularities
3. Muscular imbalances

Since I already spoke about the importance of proper recovery in a previous post I will address the other two.

Whether it is a problem with your pedal stroke, gait, or swing... these problems are only magnified when doing specific exercises in the water. One of the main features of aquatic exercise is that it allows you to exercise without the jarring and jolting experienced when training on land. It is estimated that body weight is compounded up to five times during the heel strike when running or jogging.

While working in a vertical position in the deep end of the pool you can mimick the pedal stroke or running pattern backwards with resistance thus stretching the overworked muscles, strengthening the weaker muscles, resulting in improved performance. If one leg does not have the same range of motion then that leg can get more work uni-laterally. The deep abdominal muscles work to improve your posture so less energy is being wasted, giving you the edge in endurance sports.

Traditional treatment of most injuries and strains common to athletes, includes rest and restriction of movement. This method of treatment is prescribed to ensure the affected muscles, joints and tendons are not stressed which can result in further injury. Aquatic exercise will allow the use of the affected area without placing undue stress which will result in worsening the injury. This will speed up the healing process and reduce the amount of strength and flexibility lost during the rehabilitation process.

Of course, your immediate goal with any injury is to resume normal training as soon as possible. But if you can't resume normal training immediately, your best option is to adopt a modified training program that allows you to maintain sport-specific fitness without exacerbating your injury or prolonging the recovery process.

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